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How to Stop the Momentum of Busyness

Have you ever found that once you start working or doing chores or errands, you have a hard time stopping? The momentum of it keeps you going, and you think, “I’ll just do one more thing before I take a break.” Except after that one thing, you think of another thing to do… and then another.

In these situations, you may also find that you use food as a way to slow down. That can backfire, though, because you could end up eating when you’re not hungry simply to give yourself a break. Or you may feel so busy that you either work while you eat or skip eating so you can keep going.

It doesn’t help that American culture values busyness. Many people feel like they have to stay busy to show that they’re being “productive,” but this makes it seem like we don’t have any value unless we’re producing.

Plus, this ignores the reality that you’ll be more effective at your work if you put the brakes on that busy momentum and stop.

If this is something you struggle with, here are five ideas for stopping that momentum so you can take a real break.

1 – Give yourself permission

Slowing down seems like it should be easy, but it’s often not. You may have an inner voice that urges you to keep going, or it might be the external voice of a work culture that wants you to be “on” all the time.

That’s why the first thing to do is give yourself permission to rest.

It seems simple, but you may struggle with this as I do. Perhaps you have a deep sense of responsibility, or you don’t want to let someone down. You find that when you try to relax, you’re restless, and your mind races through a never-ending to-do list.

If that happens, keep reminding yourself that you’re not being irresponsible. You’ll do better if you take even a few minutes to relax, and the to-do list will still be there when you’re ready for it.

2 – Slow down with a transition

It’s also important to remember that you can’t go from constant motion to immediate stillness. Just like a car going sixty miles per hour doesn’t immediately stop the moment you put your foot on the brake.

You have to slow down first.

In the past, my commute from work was a transition time for it. Even though it didn’t take long (ten to fifteen minutes), it was enough to separate me from the work environment. At the same time, I was doing something that still involved focus and attention, so I wasn’t immediately resting.

These days, I don’t have a commute, so I’m finding other things to do when I want to transition out of work. These include:

· Going for a short walk

· Playing with the cats

· Sorting my mail

· Answering personal email

· Listening to a podcast

You’ll have your own preferences, but the key is to stop accelerating and start slowing down.

3 – Find something to stop for

Of course, once you’ve slowed down enough, you need to want to stop. And that means finding something worth stopping for.

For me, the best way to do this is to get outside. For example, the other day I went for a walk in the woods nearby, and I managed to find a section of trail without other people. It was a perfect afternoon – about 70 degrees, sunny but shaded on the trail, with lots of squirrels and chipmunks rustling through the autumn leaves.

And I kept wanting to stop to take it all in.

In those moments, I wasn’t worried about my to-do list. I could simply focus on the here and now.

What is it that you enjoy doing when you stop for a moment? It could be all kinds of things – sitting with a pet on your lap, listening to a favorite song, reading a good book, meditating, watching an episode of a favorite show, or more. It could be eating a meal or snack while being mindful. Just see what works for you.

4 – Start small

It also helps to remember that you don’t have to stop for hours or even half an hour to start with. Try five minutes and see what happens.

Even a few minutes might feel like a long time, but do your best to sit with it. If you start feeling antsy, try to figure out why. Keep reminding yourself that you don’t have to do everything right now – and in fact, you don’t have to do everything, period.

5 – Adjust as you go

When you first try this, you might find that you don’t enjoy some things as much as you expected to. You could discover that you like some transition activities or restful moments more than you thought.

Or perhaps you find that what works for you depends on the situation. You might have an easier time slowing down if you’re doing chores at home than if you’re working or vice versa.

Remember that this is all a learning process, and you can adjust as you go.

Stopping takes practice

Taking time to slow down, stop, and rest isn’t always easy to do. It takes some experimentation and practice, but it’s well worth it.

If you can find ways to do this that work for you, you’ll be happier, and when you return to your other tasks, you’ll be re-energized.


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